So I'm 30 something and have worked with my current employer as an IT systems analyst/programmer for about 10 years. The manager job has been open for a few months, after the previous boss left. Everyone in the small group that I'm in has applied (except me) but none of them were offered the job.

A manager from a non-IT department has applied and has been talking like he is getting the job. He has a degree in CIS.....the problem is that he tried getting me to do his school work (i.e. programming projects) a few years back when he was taking college courses. He said at the time "I just want to manage, I don't care to learn how to do any of the work". So basically this guy has no IT work experience and he wants to take over the IT department.

I'm think I'm qualified for the job but aware of the pitfalls of IT management (being pressured by those above/below, longer hours, going to a lot more meetings, having to be on call more often, etc). OTOH I don't really think I want to work for this guy. He's not a bad guy, we get along, but his comments and his trying to get me to do his school work for him left a bad taste in my mouth. Also his staff doesn't seem like a very happy group. The work environment could very well take a turn for the worse.

Since it doesn't look like they are going to hire any of the others in our group who applied, I think it's either I apply or this guy gets the job. What would you guys do in this situation?

  • 5
    "What would you do" is typically not an appropriate question because it will generate opinion answers. Perhaps you could word it as "what are some drawbacks to working for a manager who doesn't have experience in his team's area of expertise?" instead. – Adam V Jul 9 '15 at 14:41
  • Do you want the job? Working for a manager inexperienced in the field they're trying to manage may be a better outcome than having to do the job yourself... – Hazel Jul 9 '15 at 14:44
  • Hazel, I honestly don't know if I want to be one. I do know that the last two bosses were miserable and both left on not-so-great terms. Part of my job has included some management responsibilities (haggling with vendors, dealing with other managers and saying no to them, etc). I have a very broad set of responsibilities (everything from software dev to networking to databases to management stuff to level one support). I do know I've plateaued as far as salary goes and the only way to increase salary much at this place is to move up. – Rich Jul 9 '15 at 14:57
  • If you are lucky this person will have grown up between school days and now. I certainly wouldn't suggest taking a job you wouldn't normally want just because you aren't sure the likely candidate will do a good job. Let this person take the job and be the next to leave on bad terms... not you. – A Smith Jul 9 '15 at 15:03
  • It has only been a couple of years. He has since been promoted so maybe he has grown up a bit . I don't interact with him too much but most interactions have been fairly positive (aside of trying to get me to do his school work which is a red flag). My concern is that he will try to merge his department with ours. Or move some of his guys in his current department into ours and poison the work environment. He would be in charge of both groups if he got the job. – Rich Jul 9 '15 at 15:12

I have worked for people with and without IT experience and it works fine if they are good managers. So I would not rule out working for someone just because they are not technical. A managers job is not a devs job and many devs make terrible managers. What is key however is if they listen to the technical people on technical issues or at least can explain to them why the business needs override theire technical desires. Repsect is a two way street, no manager of any background is fun to work for if he doesn't respect the skills of his staff.

However, in your situtaion, the problem lies not so much in that he is not technical, but that you are rivals for the same postion. If he is good at politics and you are not, be prepared, he will most likely get the postion. Since politics are about 50% or more of a manager's job, this actually makes sense.

If this happens, you need to be able to step back from your anger at not being selected and work for him as well as you can, learning what you need to learn about politics so that you can get the postion you want. You need to do this even if you decide to leave for as long as you work with this person.

I will also leave you with the thought that the person I was most unhappy with the selection of for a job I would have like to have gotten turned out to be the best boss I ever worked for and the one who made sure I got the highest raises I ever got. There is some value in working for somone who excels at politics and people are often better managers than you may think. So give the guy a chance if he does get selected.

  • He does seem to respect my opinion. He even asked me a couple of times if I applied and seemed to be very surprised when I told him that I did not. He thought I would be a shoo in because I am knowledgeable...but didn't seem to understand why I would not apply. That said, the requests to do his school work for him (not just help him but do the work because he was lost) leaves a bad taste in my mouth. He probably is good at politics. Since he is already a manager, he has a lot more interaction with upper management than I do. – Rich Jul 9 '15 at 15:15

I would be way more concerned that he tried to get you to do his school work than not knowing the IT field. The thing about managers (at least good ones who know how to manage people) is that they only need topical knowledge, and respect you for the knowledge you have in the area and take your advice. As far as his knowledge of the product area goes, I don't see any issue. To reiterate though, asking someone else to do personal work is a major red flag in my book; if you have ANY proof of this beyond an unrecorded conversation, I'd look into raising this with whomever may be making the final decision.

As to applying yourself, my previous point is also still valid. Management comes with a completely different skill requirement and different demands than any position that it is manageing. While in depth knowledge of the area you're managing is a plus (which it sounds like you have), it is not the core skill set of a good manager. Your job requirements and day to day activities would drastically change. To this end, you need to ask yourself "Do I even want to manage people?" before you think about taking the position.

  • Yes that is a major concern. He might be happy that I helped him....or he might be upset with me because I didn't do it for him. He told me before (when he was taking his class) that he doesn't feel that he needs to know how to write code because he just wants to "be the boss". The last manager was a very hands on guy, this guy would likely not do any grunt work. The rest of us have filled the void that the previous manager's leaving had. I have no proof other than the conversation we had. – Rich Jul 9 '15 at 15:18
  • I had this discussion with a couple of friends who think I'm crazy for hesitating. I was told I've been there a long time and should "go for it". These aren't people who have worked in the tech field. A lot of people think being the boss is automatically better without looking at the drawbacks of being the boss. It's a good team but small and others have applied for the job and might be unhappy they did not get it. With a team this small, we couldn't afford to have any dissension. – Rich Jul 9 '15 at 15:20

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